Firefighters battle smoldering fire at Hard Rock barge

About two dozen firefighters are working this evening to extinguish remnants of an afternoon fire that construction workers sparked while working on the collapsed roof of the storm-ravaged Hard Rock casino barge.

Fire Chief David Roberts, who expected firefighters to be on the scene through daybreak Thursday, said the fire was reported at 5:02 p.m. and firefighters found black smoke and flames visible from the south side of the barge, which is moored behind the Hard Rock hotel at U.S. 90 and Lameuse Street.

“It appears that the workers were using welding torches to cut through the roof and sparks ignited insulation under the roof,” Roberts said. As many as two dozen firefighters – including members of the Atlanta Fire Department, who have been assisting Biloxi firefighters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina – responded to the blaze. One of the city’s aerial firefighting platforms, and three pumper trucks, including two from the Atlanta Fire Department, have been on the scene since this afternoon.

Two firefighters have been positioned atop the aerial firefighting platform and a nearby construction crane hoisted a steel cage carrying a trio of firefighters to fight the blaze, but Roberts admitted that low water pressure, caused by damage to the city’s water system, has hampered firefighting efforts.

“We’re getting ready to begin drafting water from the sound,” Roberts said at 9:30 this evening. “The water pressure has been an issue, but the other challenge has been that we can’t really get to the fire because of the collapsed roof.”

The city’s fire boat had not been employed because it was trailered before the storm, and hasn’t returned to the water because its moorings at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor were destroyed during the hurricane.

Roberts said the fire did not appear to be a threat to the adjoining hotel this evening, but he was concerned that it had not yet been extinguished.
“I’d hoped we’d be able to have it out by now,” the chief said, “but it looks like we’re going to be here through daylight. We’re not going to leave until it’s completely extinguished.”

The fire is the latest in a series of blazes in Biloxi. One day last week, firefighters battled four house fires in Biloxi.

“This happens when the electricity begins coming back on,” Roberts said. “People need to be careful and take all precautions. Don’t try to use any appliance that has been submerged, and, by all means, remember that we have a ban on outdoor burning, which will remain in effect for quite some time because of the amount of debris around the city and the water pressure being so low.”

To view a video of the firefighting efforts this afternoon, click here..

News and notes

Sunken vessels: The U.S. Coast Guard has identified more than 290 vessels that were damaged or sunken by Hurricane Katrina and now pose an environmental threat to waters off Alabama and Mississippi. Boat owners planning to salvage their vessel should contact the Coast Guard Vessel Branch at (251) 441-5368 or (251) 441-6602.

Water warning: A boil water notice remains in effect for Biloxi residents south of the Bay of Biloxi.

Storm line: You can hear updated Info by calling the city’s Storm Recovery Line at (228) 435-6300.